|Volume 1 - Week 30|
Brilliant! Week 30, it is unbelievable how RF has grown since the beginning of the Super 12 in February and now a website as well! rugbyforum.co.za provides all the previous issues and its quite interesting to read the contentious issues of seven months ago, in many cases they are unchanged, sorry Butch. The planning is to release a best of RF for Christmas and of course you will receive a complimentary Boney M Christmas Carols CD and that’s not all…!
The weekend saw Scotland’s conclusion of the Six Nations competition with an excellent victory over Ireland. In case you are confused, the foot and mouth disease created havoc amongst all sporting events in the beginning of the year and Ireland suspended all matches hence Six Nation tests in September. The Irish quite fancied their chances after some excellent results in the beginning of the year but their defeat hands the crown to England and the highly anticipated match between the old rivals will only determine the difference between a Grand Slam or Tripple Crown for the victorious English team.
In the Currie Cup competition the first round of Top 8 matches were played and with strength versus strength there were some tough, entertaining rugby. RF attended the big WP Lions duel at Newlands and sitting amongst the 22,000 strong crowd one can understand why WP continually prove strong contenders for a title they have won on more occasions than any other province. The average supporter is critical and fanatical with an excellent knowledge of the game and combined with a staunch archetypical press the white and blue hoops are under as much pressure as their higher calling, the Springboks to produce victories. This they did in exciting fashion, as always a live game present the spectator with a completely different view than the edited, replayed and commentated television version. The closeness of the supporters allow each and everyone to be involved in a DVD simulated experience, the sound may not be as great but wow the visuals are so life like! One has the freedom of following the ball or linger at the mauls to catch glimpses of players “greeting” each other, no doubt they have not seen each other since Auckland!
The one player that attracted a lot of my attention was the young Joe van Niekerk since a friend from the Lions mentioned that this boy can “jol hey” when I questioned his inclusion in the Springbok squad a few months ago. The conclusion; well, the boy can jol hey! The young man’s talent is undeniable and his temperament in the wake of the “rough” treatment from the likes of Bob Skinstad and “oom” Corne was more than commendable. Fast, strong and the uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time signifies the arrival of a true contender within the Springbok loose-forward rivalry. As it turned out the nail in the Lions coffin was Pieter “easy intercept” Rossouw who put the game beyond Jannes Labuschagne’s men with a trademark intercept and sprint to the line. A nice touch in the final seconds was a try for Percy Montgomery, much criticized fullback in his 50th appearance for his province after an early brush-off from exciting youngster Gcobani Bobo led to a Lion's try. A strange event as he is the holder of 49 Springbok caps, just shows you how little rugby the top Springboks play for their province.
The other results of the weekend were a debilitating defeat by the Sharks for the Blue Bulls in the final seconds. This was the second week in a row that almost became forlorn and the young team from Pretoria who played magnificent rugby throughout this year seems to be out of the running for the semi-finals. The Cheetas proved too strong for their cousins Griquas and with Venter and Erasmus ruling the roost the Bloemfontein boys could just spring a surprise in a competition they have won only once in their distinguished history. The Falcons, consistent this year with Adrian Jacobs playing wonderful rugby in a young team eager to perform defeated the Pumas and set up a good opportunity to play in the semi-finals.
This coming weekend should provide a much clearer picture of who will contend the semi-finals and with certain teams in must win situations the pressure stakes are high. The top of the log clash between WP and the Falcons will determine one semi-finalist and this should be an excellent match between two teams that thrive on broken play. The Pumas, Sharks, Lions and the Cheetas are all in with a shout in a congested mid table so from a spectator’s view this weekend should produce some excellent rugby.
An interesting news items caught the attention this week, the WP players are struggling with flu and their recuperation are hampered by the medicine they are allowed to take. This is a very real reminder of how drugs and drug tests turn into a scourge in the lives of professional sportsmen. The average sick person can pop into the local chemist scratch around for some good flu tablets or cough mixture and without any fear or qualm administer the medicine as per instructions. Top rugby players can no longer afford to do so unless they possess B.Pharm degrees or idealize a bit of R&R with no pay or compensation for two years! Face it drug cheats are not condonable but one can have some sympathy for their everyday dilemma.
Enjoy the issue, support your teams live, send an e-mail and visit the RF website!
The Right Stuff by Mark Foster
South Africa, one of the great rugby nations is mid in its yearly premier competition and in one month’s time the Currie Cup champions will be crowned. In what has become the norm the Springboks will depart on their end of year tour to Europe barely a week later. The search for perfect combinations and players is therefore a never-ending pursuit for the Springbok brain trust.
Regular readers of this column will recall a previous article, ”South Africa’s Mediocrity” (Week 26) which contained some interesting statistics reflecting South Africa’s dour position in the world pecking order and how expectations exceed abilities – statistics wise. The question as a result of these findings is, do we have the personnel to dominate the so-called Big 5 (Australia, England, France, South Africa and New Zealand)? An examination of the current crop of coaches and players is an interesting exercise to seek answers for the dearth of test victories.
South Africa posses a number of excellent, knowledgeable coaches and are not necessarily behind the world standard. Head coaches like Rudolph Straueli, Rudi Joubert and Gert Smal are accomplished and more than capable of producing winning teams with excellent playing patterns. Past coaches like Ian McIntosh and Nick Mallett are widely respected for their skill and vision of the game. The specialist department is not in trouble either; there are the likes of Gysie Pienaar, Carel Du Plessis and Danie Gerber, all world-class players in their day with the ability to part their tremendous skills and experience to backline players. The forwards are well served with Balie Swart, Peet Kleynhans and Heyneke Meyer. In short, conventionally speaking there should be very little problems in producing strong, well-drilled, competitive teams at all levels.
The current Springbok coach, Harry Viljoen made it clear that for the national team to win test matches against the Big 5, attention to “2%” detail is necessary. HV made an excellent point with this statement, as said above “conventionally speaking” there seem to be no problem; it is in the “unconventional” aspects that our players need coaching and a lot of it. Unconventional include the following: decision-making, counter attack, creation of space, positional kicking and multi-phase attack and defence. With the benefit of hindsight, HV’s decision to employ a specialist defensive coach must be applauded and is one of the reasons the Springboks hardly conceded any tries in the matches this year despite Butch James’ dement. The other skills were neglected and if they are part of the growth process it is understandable however here the player’s ability, vision, temperament and genius determine the outcome and not necessarily the quantity of coaches on the payroll. At some stage, the players have to take responsibility and to paraphrase Nike, just do it!
The players; the usual test one can perform is the inclusion in a world team and unfortunately it is a very difficult criteria indeed with so many teams performing on a very high standard. Realistically South Africa should be able to contribute at least 4 players to a world XXII in the form of forwards only, Visagie, Kempson, van Biljon and Matfield will be starting or on the bench. The re-birth of the Springbok scrum is a significant occurrence and like in years gone by should be the strength of our rugby; there are numerous talented players in all positions especially loose-forward. Few countries can boost the likes of Venter, Vos, Skinstad, Erasmus, Krige, van Rensburg and easily one of the most talented players since the emergence of Skinstad, Joe van Niekerk. Matfield is truly proving his worth and his influence is remarkable on provincial level, his menacing presence cause hookers to quiver and crumble when throwing the ball in the lineouts, same to be said of van den Bergh and Andrews when fit is one of the best players in the world.
The problem and this is no secret lay in the quality of backline players, for a country that produced “greats” at consistent intervals the emergence of a dominating back is way overdue. The focus as always are on the halfbacks and since they are the crucial linking positions the desperation multiplies. Joost will not last forever and even though he possesses numerous fine qualities his prime task as no 9 is to provide fast accurate ball to a flyhalf, his weakest characteristic. The contenders are very few Niel De Kock and Craig Davidson but they need exposure on national level. The problem is surmountable, as neither of the two in question will disgrace a test side.
The sole reason why the Springbok’s are not effective in dominating opposition is no 10, an age-old debate in the annals of Springbok rugby but the current issue is quite different from the past. Historically the topic of flyhalf always coincided with differing playing patterns, the running flyhalf or the kicking flyhalf, the respective type of pivot was always available for selection. The current dilemma is the lack of any player capable of doing one or the other or both. Contenders there are a plenty and with the incumbent incapacitated the best player available who is a certain selection based on kicking form is Braam van Straaten, easily the most under-appreciated Springbok player in the modern era. Braam’s so-called shortcomings are well documented however as a match-winner he is beyond compare.
The logic way of thinking would be to provide him as prime point scorer with all the necessary assistance in playing his kind of game i.e. a scrumhalf with a quick service to create more time for his “slow hands”. It boils down to who is more dispensable Joost or Braam? Thought so, sorry Joost! Next, provide Braam with a centre capable of creating space and with excellent distribution. Here lies the true challenge and not in finding a new flyhalf that is expected to do everything. Let the current crop of Jaco van der Westhuizen and Chris Rossouw play in the SA A team and a round of Super 12 next year and the added experience will mature them for the job at hand.
The outside centre and wing position is quite similar to the loose-forward dilemma, with many quality players vying for a place. Jantjes can secure the fullback position for an extended period of time and become a world-class player depending on form and injuries, his talent is irrefutable.
In conclusion, South Africa has most of the personnel required for the job and since that leaves us with the crucial 2%, every effort, focus and resource should be on this area to restore the leaping Springbok to the forefront of world rugby. It may suggest a change of impetus amongst our leading thinkers and administrators of the game to look for the added value in both players and coaches, and then nurture this ability for the national cause.
Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records. William A. Ward
To be honest, the rugby's been that awful I haven't really been excited enough to get into it. Josh Kronfeld on the Super 12
The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Hell, it's been hard. I never thought it would be this bad. You have to be in it to experience it. I get criticised all the time. It's more difficult than I ever imagined. Harry Viljoen
Top 8 Currie Cup Log
Letters to the Editor
Baie mense kritiseer WP, WP spelers en WP Bokspelers. Die vraag ontstaan hoekom? Ek raak nou moeg daarvan, maar gaan liewers nie daarop ingaan nie. Ek het glad nie die Bokspan van '95 gekritiseer nie - miskien die weglating van Tiaan Strauss...?! Dit daar gelaat... Ja ek kom van die Kaap, maar eintlik is ek n ondersteuner van individue. Andre Snyman is my held, nes James Small van nie so lank gelede.
Almal weet (nie almal wil dit erken), dat Braam die beste is wat ons het, tot tyd en wyl n jongeling genoeg geleer het (by Braam) om as losskakel oor te neem. Fleckie is vernietegend, en met Andre Snyman aan sy buitekant - "PRICELESS". Mense, dis ontsettend belangrik dat ons as rugby nasie die Bokke professioneel moet ondersteun!!. Die dag wanneer dit gebeur sal daar baie minder druk op die individu wees,omdat sy kop nie meer deur ander unies se ondersteuners geeis sal word nie. Magtig mense, haal daai provinsiale brul af , trap hom stukkend en gooi hom weg!! Nes ons almal vir die Bokspan van '95 toegejuig het as n span, met Joel Stransky wat n spesiale vermelding verdien, moet ons die Bokke ondersteun deur duk en din.
Ek dink Harry Viljoen gaan dit nog ver bring. Hy het n moeilike vuurdoop gehad, maar ook reeds baie reggekry. Onthou julle Carel du Plessies se bouproses...
Ek groet julle met n Castle in my hand
Great issue this week. The opening article was indeed clever and well articulated.
I am glad you now have a website and will be a regular visitor to your site. I think it's great that Rugby Forum is showing growth and development (sorry the same can't be said for some of your readers).
The top 8 sure looks like it will be an exciting stage of the Currie Cup to watch and as my friends at Varsity always say, "the competition is hotting up"
Just one thing to all Rugby Forum readers, Naas Botha also publicly slandered the ref viz "Tappe Henning" at the end of that match. Tappe also confirmed that he is a bad ref in the game last week when Butch needed a yellow card but did not receive one.
I never once said that South African Referees suck in fact look back at one of my letters and they state that Jonathon Kaplan is the best ref in the world, at least in my opinion that is. Maybe Tappe should go back school.
Yes I am smart to Frans and for this reason I will not resort to calling the wonderful (spot the satire) South African commentators any names.
Rugby Forum can you by any chance in your next issue publish a report on the last 25 Currie cup finals and the scores. You won't have to do match reports just the teams playing and the scores.
I also just wish to make a comment about Davidson. I think he is a wonderful scrumhalf and delivers very good ball to his flyhalf. I do hope that he will not be ignored for selection at the end of year tour.
RF will compile some statistics of previous Currie Cup Finals nearer to this year's final - Ed.
I, like a number of your correspondents, have been expecting a disciplinary decision against Butch James sometime this season but the findings yesterday raise two questions:
1. How consistent is the sentence with that meted out to Japie Mulder for his heinous attack on De Wet Barry?
2. What penalty has been imposed on Tappe Henning?
Tappe Henning was after all advised by his Linesman on each occurrence of the acts for which Butch has been sentenced and ignored his Linesman's calls. Surely, as one of the four SARFU salaried Refs, he too must face an earnings loss as he is expected to apply the rules of the game, written in part to protect the players?
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